Tuesday, December 13, 2005

I can't believe we're still talking about childcare...

Well, I guess maybe the "beer and popcorn" gaffe is bigger than I thought, since both the Globe and Mail AND the National Post decided to stretch out the story by waiting until today, three days later, to publish their editorials condemning it (though I still think the biggest insult is that Scott Reid has found a supply of RIDICULOUSLY cheap beer and popcorn, and refuses to tell us where it is...).

Still, I can't believe we're still talking about the Liberal's plan versus the Conservative plan. In fact, it's not even the Liberal philosophy versus the Conservative philosophy at all. The Conservatives are the ONLY major party that doesn't want a national childcare plan. And guess what? CANADIANS want a national childcare plan too. That's why the Liberals have been promising it for 12 years! That's why Brian Mulroney promised it before that. It's also why Quebec (sick of waiting for something everyone was demanding) went a head and started their own plan. And what do you know, there's a gender gap! Women favour a national daycare program much more strongly than men (gee... I wonder why...)

And allow me to just say, once again, that a tax cut does not a "childcare plan" make. And before conservatives start complaining that the Tory plan is more than the measly $25 a week tax cut for parents (which, let's face it, will only REALLY help people who aren't already paying for daycare anyway). No, it's more than that! It's a tax cut for businesses too! That's right! The Conservative plan is much better than setting up a government program designed to provide high-quality regulated childcare to parents at an affordable price. The Conservatives want to give thousands of dollars to private corporations to set up their own childcare centres without all of the bureaucracy of "regulation" and "quality-control" and "minimum standards". We'll have all kinds of choices then! You can stay at home with your kids, leave them with trusted family members who don't work for a living or send them to a privately run daycare centre! Excellent! (but, is it just me, or do you have that choice now???)

Under the Conservative plan, companies will receive $10,000 per daycare space they create. Now, what they'll charge people to use those spaces is anyone's guess (repeat after me, it's not the role of government to interfere in the private sector). But if I were running a company, I'd jump at this. The Conservatives are offering to give companies grants to get into a business that is essential to many Canadians, and in which demand exceeds supply. The average cost to families of daycare in Canada is $8000 a year, and presumably, that includes some small profit margin for the operator. Now, obviously, start up costs for a program would be higher, but it seems to me, if you're a CEO, and the government is going to give you $10,000 per child to set up a program that you can then reap $8000 per child per year from (and $X000 per child per year in profits depending upon how much you charge) well, that's a good deal. Furthermore, if you can manage to set-up the program for the $8000 a child that the AVERAGE centre actually charges, you've made a $2000 per child profit before you even enroll your first child. And best of all, the Conservatives are all about "choice". So you can use that $10,000 per child to set up any kind of program you like. Hiring trained early education specialists too expensive? Don't. Simple as that.

So instead of slimy bureaucrats setting up a program with "regulations" and "standards", the Conservatives will give grants to the local Walmart to set up a daycare program for us! That'll be much better!

Vive le "choice"!

(And can I just mention how ticked I am that the Conservatives keep whining about "bureaucrats and government workers raising our kids". The bureaucrats that there may be will be ensuring that daycare centres adhere to a minimum standard of care, not working in the centres. The people in the centres will be teachers and early childcare specialists with training and experience (who knows who the private companies will hire under the Conservative plan... that's none of the government's business). So, will the teachers and early education specialists be "government workers"? Well, I suppose. But so is virtually every teacher in the country. So are most of our doctors. And nurses. And policemen. And firefighters. And soldiers. So what? I'd rather have a well-educated professional whose pay cheque comes from the government (and is therefore regulated by the government) taking care of my kids, than somebody who took a month long "training course" and managed to get by the strict regulations (if any) set up by my local corporate "daycare" centre. There are some things that are so important to Canadians that we feel we have a collective responsibility to fund and operate those services as a society rather than allowing private companies to do the work for us. Our healthcare is one. Our military is another. Our educational system is yet another. I think the majority of Canadians think that the childcare that so many of us need for our children before they reach the age at which our educational system begins, is another essential service that we can't just leave in the hands of corporations. But maybe I'm crazy.).

The Liberals like tax cuts, but believe that there are some things in society that must be handled by the government. The Conservatives love tax cuts and believe that "government" is a dirty word.

You make the call.

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Polly Jones said...

You know what drives me mad is that that the PCs continually pass themselves off as the economically sound party. In fact, national childcare would be good for the GDP. So, not only would we promoting access to the workforce for women, we would be promoting economic growth. I think this whole childcare thing is VERY much about maintaining the nuclear family...because women who can easily work and have their kids cared for truly poses a threat.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

My biggest problem with all of the Tories focused "policy" announcements in the campaign is that it's all tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts. Hey, I love tax cuts as much as the next person, but where's the POLICY in all these "policy" announcements?

Giving tax cuts to families, and to companies that create more daycare spaces is great and all, but it's NOT a childcare policy. Giving tax cuts to families to pay for sports is great, but it's NOT a physical fitness policy. Cutting the GST is fine (well, kinda stupid, but fine) but it is NOT an economic policy.

To me, the Tory announcements don't look like a plan to govern Canada. They look like a going out of business sale.